Back 9: Luke Donald & Webb Simpson will Duke it out for PGA Money Title & POYWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Next week’s final PGA tournament of 2011, the Children’s Miracle Hospital Network held at the Disney World Resort Courses in Orlando, will be the final showdown for PGA Player of the Year and the PGA Money Title. Luke Donald has led the PGA money list since early in the year, but Webb Simpson is primed to overtake him going into the final event.
Donald also is leading the Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s money list and is trying to become the first professional golfer to ever win money titles on both the PGA and European Tours in the same year. In just 12 starts on the European Tour he has had three wins as well as nine top 10 finishes and has a comfortable $1.3 million Euro lead over Rory McIlroy.
In just his third year playing full time on the PGA Tour, 26-year-old Webb Simpson has had a breakout season with two wins, two second place finishes and 19 top 25 finishes. He entered this week only $70,000 behind Donald, and it appears he will pocket a big check at this week’s McGladery Classic at Sea Island, Ga. He is poised to claim the No. 1 spot on the PGA money list and could add a third trophy to his mantle.
Even though Luke Donald has had only one win on the PGA Tour, he has two second place finishes and has had an exceptional year in the United States. He has been the most consistent player on the PGA Tour all season with an amazing 13 top 10’s and 15 top 25’s in 18 starts.
Donald has the edge over Simpson in the Majors in 2011, finishing fourth at the Masters, 45th at the U. S. Open, 94th at the British and eighth in the PGA. Simpson did not qualify for the Masters, was 14th at the U. S. Open, 16th at the British and missed the cut at the PGA.
Luke has also performed well in the World Golf Championship (WGC) events. His only win in the U. S. came at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, where he bested then world No. 1 Martin Kaymer. He also finished sixth in the WGC-Cadillac at Doral and second in the WGC-Bridgestone at Akron.
Simpson has had to earn his money the “old fashioned” way. He did not qualify for the invitation-only, lucrative, no-cut World Golf Championship events in 2011.
After missing the cut at the PGA, Simpson made a gigantic push at the end of the golf season. He won the Wyndham the next week and then followed that up with strong finishes in the FedEx Cup Playoff events. He finished 10th in the Barclay’s, picked up his second win in three weeks at the Deutsche Bank, had a 5th place finish at the BMW but fell to a 22nd place in the Tour Championship eventually finishing in 2nd place in the FedEx Cup points standings.
Donald performed at top efficiency the entire 2011 season and continued his strong play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He finished 18th in the Barclay’s, 3rd at the Deutsche Bank, 4th in the BMW and made a clutch putt on the 72nd hole at the Tour Championship that, at the time, appeared to have sealed the FedEx Cup Trophy and $10 million prize. Bill Haas eventually made that miraculous shot from the water and snatched the big check right from Donald’s checking account.
The PGA’s Fall Series has been an outstanding success in 2011. Not only has Tiger Woods been lured out of hibernation to play at the Frys.com in San Jose, but TV ratings have increased 235 percent, even with football at full bloom. Now the Player of the Year and the five year exemption that goes along with the PGA Money Title all come down to the last tournament of the year.
When asked where he was going next week, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem replied, “I’m going to Disney World!”